Covering letters are needed for most job applications, and for many other documents. Mainly they are similar, but they should never be standard. Here are some things to bear in mind:
- Don’t quote your enclosure. The letter is there to get attention so the reader moves on to that enclosure. Don’t steal your own thunder.
- Think of the letter as a short essay on why the enclosure is important. You need to think what is in it for the reader, not what is in it for you. You need to convince them why they must hire you, or why they must read this report.
- Think how you might react to a letter like yours. Letters making outrageous claims often go in the bin, as do letters telling the recipient what to do. Remember the power balance here.
- Be clear about who you are. What makes you different? More importantly, how will you make a difference? Pick out your most important features for this job, but avoid making a list.
- Using evidence has three benefits. It keeps you focused, gives you credibility, and stops you sounding arrogant. Vague statements about excellence get you nowhere. Make sure the evidence is relevant for this job, not merely generally impressive.
- Don’t quote the job description or other company literature, in the application or at an interview. Show you have researched the organisation in what you say. If you write a good letter, they will know you have good communication skills.
- Use the letter as an opportunity to signpost important parts of the enclosure. This is particularly useful if you are sending a long report.
- Keep it short.
- Avoid jargon your reader may not understand.
- Be positive.
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